Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner is a super emotional book about grief and guilt. I expected my heart to be beaten about since last year I read Zentner’s debut, The Serpent King, and wow was that emotionally devastating and incredible. Goodbye Days has the same level of intensity! It’s like being left out in the rain with a bucket to catch your tears…and honestly it can be hard to read at times because it was so raw. But a book that really makes you feel things?! You know that is an excellent story!

The book follows the tragic story of Carver whose 3 friends have just died instantly in a horrific car accident. And the last thing the driver was doing? Reading a text that Carver had just sent. The guilt is heavy on Carver, resulting in severe anxiety attacks and devastation. He’s absolutely hated by most of his friends’ families. But the grandmother of one of his dead friends asks Carver to help her have a “goodbye day” for closure, and he agrees…and it unravels more to the story.

The heartbreak levels for the reader are EXTREMELY HIGH HERE. The writing is so incredible that you not only ache for Carver, you ache with Carver. Just the knowledge that his text “could” have been the reason his friends died is a crippling fact lodged in your mind and you can’t help but see all sides to the story. The writing is so strong though, and I felt such righteous indignation that Carver was going through this and suffering so much when he’s not the only one to blame. (C’mon, his friend picked up the phone too.) Plus I think the book really perfectly balanced adding in jokes and quips and lighter scenes, without severing the heaviness of the storyline, but not making the book one huge bucket of depressing tales.

I really felt for all the characters. Sometimes it’s hard to care when a book starts off with a large portion of the cast already dead. You don’t really get a chance to know them, right?! But there are tons of flash-backs that help you really connect to Carver’s friends. And it’s so hard to read these happy memories, knowing what goes down. I did find the flashbacks a little unsatisfying when they didn’t focus equally on all the boys, though. It would’ve been nice to have equal backstory for them!

SMALL LIST OF OTHER THINGS TO LOVE:

  • Carver’s big sister, Georgia, is the best and SO loving and supportive! I always adore epic sibling relationships in books.
  • It has a REALLY positive portrayal of therapy and mental health plans, and actually goes into detail about anxiety therapy.
  • It doesn’t cure anything with romance.
  • The representation of anxiety is stunningly accurate and well crafted.
  • Honestly it was just so so well written I couldn’t put it down.
  • It was full of tension, as well as fun and lighter scenes!
  • There was so much food I nearly ate my book.

 

Goodbye Days is definitely a heartbreaking and beautiful book! It balances darkness with hope and it was thoroughly heart-wrenching. Definitely a book to read if you’re not sure if you have a heart, because this will find it for you. It’s a story that deals with unfairness and rage and the complexities of grief. It was quite unsettling and upsetting for me, and I couldn’t wait to see the outcome. Carver was a fantastic narrator who was totally easy to relate to and root for. I definitely think Jeff Zentner is a master storyteller and I can’t wait to read basically everything he ever writes of ever.

Review: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

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Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik is simply an excellent novel. It’s all about friendship, love, sibling relationships, and Autism. And also it’s quite decidedly about the realisation that ice cream outings are the key part to living a happy life. (Ice cream is important, okay? Remember that always.) I’m endlessly pleased that it had such a lovely representation of Autism! The author has an ASD child and you can really tell she knows and understands the complexity of the spectrum. Plus it’s actually a positive view of Autism which was so refreshing. I just can’t praise this book enough!

The story is by the point of view of Chloe, who is neurotypical, and she has an older sister named Ivy who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Chloe could be viewed as a typical “queen bee”, who has the perfect boyfriend, is popular at school, and is blonde and beautiful. But shallowness? #Nope. She cares about her sister, about feminism, about thinking for herself. And when she notices that Ivy seems to be wishing to find someone to love, Chloe embarks on a mission to try and find Ivy a boyfriend.

I loved Chloe and Ivy’s relationship! Chloe is 17 and Ivy is nearly 21, but Chloe functions in more of the “big sister” role, with Ivy’s Autism making her struggle with communication and relating to people. Ivy doesn’t express emotions/feelings easily and she’s not independent, with her parents (sadly) not doing much to help her in that respect. I think it was perfectly fine that Ivy was staying quietly at home, but I also loved that Chloe was intent on making sure Ivy got to experience other aspects of life — if she wanted them. But I won’t deny the parents were pretty problematic and nearly neglectful. Not in a malicious way, just in a “this is too hard, what do we do with Ivy” so while they cared and loved her 100% of the time, they didn’t attempt to help her with life. So be warned: there’s plenty of ableism in this book. From Chloe’s friends making ableist comments to people treating Autism like a disease that needs curing. But the book tackles the issues head on and address them, which is just so needed.

I also liked the contrast of the sisters with the two brothers, David and his brother, Ethan, who also has Autism. While David and Chloe are rather nemesis at school, Chloe unknowingly sets up a date between Ethan and Ivy. So David and Chloe (being carers of their siblings in the date outings) end up spending a lot of time together. It is a fabulous show of a slow-build friendship between them! And as David stopped being an acidic lemon drop and Chloe stopped being so judgemental, I really started to ship them! They were adorable. And can we just say character development for both of them was A+!? Because it absolutely was!

The representation of ASD was also magnificently done. Ivy and Ethan were so sweet and I loved that the book showed so many positive sides of Autism! It also underlined how complex the spectrum is, with individuals having such different capabilities, thoughts, and expressions. Ivy and Ethan were both intelligent and loving.

“You know, if we were pushing our siblings in wheelchairs, people would be nice to them and to us. They’d be like, Oh, the poor handicapped people and their wonderful siblings! Let’s hold doors for them! But Ivy and Ethan…they basically look like everyone else, with just these tiny differences in how they behave and move. And that bugs people. They don’t know what to do with that. It’s like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can’t deal with something just a little bit different. And it makes them uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they act like jerks.”

And see that quote? The book is just stuffed with incredible thought provoking and accurate realisations like this. I’m so glad it exists! I definitely recommend this one! The characters are absolutely cute and complex and relatable and the dialogue was one of my most favourite things. There’s banter and wit, and also ice cream outings and a lot of coffee. It underlined the message that Autism isn’t brokenness or bad and showed that everyone is capable of and needs love.

Review: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

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Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee was such an adorable and pleasant surprise! I picked it up when I heard it was about homeschoolers, and since I spent most of my school life doing just that…I was super keen to see how homeschooling would be portrayed in this book. It can be a controversial topic, with people only seeing the negatives. But what school system isn’t flawed?? If homeschooling works for you = it’s excellent! I absolutely appreciated how beautiful this book was in its representation of homeschooling. It was funny and nerdy and completely dorky at times and managed to be heart-wrenchingly poignant on top of that. Because, you know…all the good books like to hurt you.

The story centres around the perspective of Stevie who discovers a “dead” boy in her neighbours yard. Except he’s not dead, just faking it. They slowly become friends and Stevie joins in Max’s quest to fake his death 23 times. For him, it’s closure after he had a near fatal accident. Although there might be more to his story than he’s letting on. Together with Stevie’s BFF, Sanger, the three get into hair-raising schemes that often end in near true tragedy.

I really loved the representation of diversity in this book! Not only does Stevie homeschool, but she also has Type 1 Diabetes which affects her life all the time, including a near death experience in her childhood that haunts her. Sanger also has two mothers and there’s diversity of skin colour as well. I also love how the minority aspects fit into the story and weren’t just fluttering around in the background. They affected their lives and were beautifully represented.

The characters were absolutely my favourite part! They seemed utterly real. And maybe it was a homeschooler aspect helping me to relate, but I also just adored the intelligent, nerdy, sassy, and deep thinking that went down in this novel. I think any teen could relate to these three fantastic friends! Their banter is absolutely on point and I found myself cracking up multiple times. Plus any book that features a strong female friendship gets the thumbs up from me. Stevie and Sanger do not let silly things come between their deep bond. “Sisters before misters” as they say.

The romance between Stevie and Max was absolutely adorable. I also appreciated the fact that the romance was only a small aspect of the story. It was firstly about (a) friendship, (b) Stevie sticking up for her activist believes; (c) talking very brutally honestly and openly about death, fears, and phobias; and (d) discussions on judging others and how that affects everyone. But still absolutely shipped Max and Stevie though! They were so cute and awkward and their romance was slow-burn and winning.

The writing was also totally addictive! I didn’t want to stop reading! Although it did move along a little slower than the average book I gnaw through, but perhaps this is because I was savouring every line and often had to stop and laugh my head off. As you do for excellent tomes.

Lucky Few is definitely a must read! It will appeal to homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike, with the dorky and relatable characters and the humour and the slightly dark death-pranks that forge strong bonds between the three and also cause them all to nearly really die on occasion. It was morbid and sassy and clever. It also shows that homeschoolers are “normal” people, who also fail tests and watch show reruns and eat tacos and fake their deaths. Absolutely normal.

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

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We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen was such a delightful surprise for me! I had basically no expectations going in, because I’d seen my bookworm friends reading it but not a lot of buzz or hype. Yet, it turned out to be spectacular?!? I adored it. And it sealed the deal of Pure Awesome by being in letter format, which reminded me of one of my favourite books ever: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Excuse me, I’m having all kinds of feelings about this book. It was sad and funny and emotional all at once and I’m so glad I spontaneously tried this one!

Basically the story is about two childhood best friends, Cath and Scott, who have just finished highschool and are now facing the terrifying prospect of being adults. It’s set in the ’80s! Cath is off to college and Scott is working in his dad’s clothing store due to basically flunking highschool. He puts together a band but is really struggling with self-worth. Cath is enjoying college but having quite a bad string of boyfriends and also trying to cope with her parents breaking up due to an affair. They both send regular letters to each other about lives and feelings and hopes and dreams. Sometimes they letters go very badly with Scott never taking anything seriously and Cath being super sensitive. But their friendship just keeps growing until — is it something mooooore?!? We must know.

As I mentioned, I particularly enjoyed the letter format! The story had so much voice and each letter was full of Cath or Scott’s personality. I felt like we were all BFF after only a few pages. And anyone who can make mere letters full of emotion and feeling is clearly a writing wizard. Plus it was really encouraging to read about two teens keeping up a long distance friendship!

Scott and Cath were also fantastic to read about. Scott was my favourite, being an absolute adorakble idiot, who tended to make self-depreciating jokes and always underestimate himself. I adored his character development and how he learned that life wasn’t just your highschool test score and, no, flunking highschool does not have to ruin your life. Plus the fact that he was secretly searching for more felt very poignant and understandable. Any teen finishing higschool asks the questions Scott is floundering with. #Relatable

Cath’s college experience was a bit more alien to me, since the book was set in America. And I often got frustrated at how Cath automatically assumed everything was about her and ended up offended a lot. But in the end? She was so sweet and the way the friendship developed into romance with Scott was absolutely adorable. I also liked how she learned to stop judging people on face value and made some epic girl-power friends in her class.

Obviously the “what do we do now that highschool is over” theme is ALWAYS going to be applicable. Even if this is set in the ’80s! (Ancient history, obviously, har har…hush now.)

The humour was also absolutely on point. It mixed sass and witty banter with pure dorkiness that just had me laughing out loud as I devoured the pages. Cath often complained that Scott’s letters made her crack up in class…and, same, sister…same.

I also was surprised at how emotional the story got! There’s a plot twist that had me sniffling, because I honestly expected it to just be a light/happy contemporary. But no. It had depth and feelings too, so be prepared to have your little heart punched a few times. Which is absolutely excellent.

I definitely think We Are Still Tornadoes is a must-read! It’s completely underrated! It’s relatable and funny and poignant and tackles some difficult topics head-on. And a book that makes me laugh is always going to get an A+ from me.

Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde is an absolutely adorable story about the fangirl life and being happy being yourself. It’s absolutely adorkable and definitely not to be missed. I also didn’t realise it was by an Australian author when I picked it up, so that just entirely made my day! Although it is set in the USA, but the two protagonists are Australian. And what could be better than reading a cute fluffy story about two best friends off to a ComicCon type of event to live their dreams of nerdom and to find love?

This book calls to you, it does. Just look at it and all that calling.

The story centres around Charley who’s a sudden star from an Aussie indie film, and how she’s at SupaCon to do press. She brings her BFF’s Taylor (who has Autism) and Jamie (who is Latino) and together they go into 100% GEEK MODE and have the time of their lives. There are famous authors to meet, movie stars to flail over, competitions to enter, anxiety to be tackled, crushes to be confessed, and the realisation that you should be unapologetically yourself at all times. Which is such a beautiful message!

The book is really rather short, but manages to pack a lot of fun dialogue and relatable scenes in. I’m not generally one to rush after fluffy contemporaries, but this was definitely a light and one! It did border on making the characters so perfect, however, that they could’ve practically sprouted angel wings and frolicked about in halos. But I’ll forgive it because these were kids I looked up to! Even if they felt a bit idealistic in the way they were written.

If you’re a fangirl, also, you’re going to love all the fandom references! It mentions Marvel comics and the TV show Supernatural. They mention the Vampire Diaries and Felicia Day, too! And it’s so centred around youtube and tumblr, which Charlie and Taylor are updating constantly. Taylor is also heavily obsessed with a fantasy series, which was made up for the show, but it easily had an “insert fandom of choice here” feel to it which made it very relatable! They were doing cosplays and book signings and film previews and zombie mazes. Basically your little nerd heart will explode with wish to go to this magical SupaCon.

I loved the inclusion of diversity too! Taylor has Autism, and it was so refreshing to see love for ASD girls here because they are overlooked so much in literature. Taylor’s ASD traits (including severe anxiety, very intense obsession interests, and struggle with change) all felt completely realistic and well represented! Also Charley is bisexual and Asian and their other friend, Jamie, is Latino.

And of course there is romance…and it’s super cute! Charley has had a crush on a youtube star, Alyssa, forever….and finally gets her chance to see if it’ll work. But she’s also recovering from a messy public breakup with a costar so putting her emotions out there is NOT easy for her. And Taylor has had a crush on her best friend, Jamie, for years…but she hates the thought of their friendship dynamic changing. And she doesn’t know how to romance. How doth one romance. So her reluctance to act on her feelings is complicating things immensely. I thought the romance was a sweet and lovely touch, and didn’t drown out the rest of the plot.

Queens of Geek is, in summary, EXTREMELY GEEKY. It made me smile with all the fangirl appreciation and the cute dialogue and fantastically winning characters! I wish they’d been a little less “perfect”, however,  but the fun storyline over a quick 3-day period definitely made up for it. I also appreciated the Aussie references and how it represented minorities that definitely need their voices heard. If you’re looking for a fun story: HERE IT IS.

Review: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

9780385755924I was so incredibly excited to read Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven! One of my most favourite books in the world is her YA Debut, All The Bright Places, which managed to reduce me to a howling mess of adoration, feels, and awareness about mental health matters. I was a bit nervous that Holding Up The Universe would destroy me or not live up to All The Bright Places. And you know what? It was different. And that’s okay! There was still feels, epic dialogue, and some sweet moments that absolutely melted my heart. It featured two teens who were struggling with life, who weren’t perfect, who had a lot to learn, and yet were so relatable I just wanted to squish them with hugs. I am 100% of the opinion that a good book makes you feel things. All stars of approval for Holding Up the Universe!

I feel like a big message of the book was about “being seen”. It’s equal parts about Libby (who was once known as the “fattest teen in America”) and Jack (who has prosopagnosia which is a disability that renders you unable to recognise facial features). I loved the storyline! It was so poignant and beautifully written. Here’s these two teens who have a very rocky meeting (aka they nearly get each other expelled) but slowly learn to stop making assumptions about people and listen. And give second chances. It impressed me so much honestly! I also adored all the messages of self worth and love and acceptance that were woven through the book!

Brief List Of Other Things I Loved:

  • There are so many references to the TV show of Supernatural! Of which I am a ginormous fan so thank you for all that nerdom!
  • There is a lot of dancing. Dancing everywhere! Dancing whether people think you’re good at it or not! Dancing because it makes you happy!
  • There is diverse representation of size and skin colour and disabilities.
  • Jack has a gorgeous afro and has an epic love for it that made my day.
  • There is self-love for one’s body, no matter what the size.

 

And the characters?! I loved them! Jack was my absolutely favourite, but it took me longer to warm up to Libby, as she speaks and thinks all the right things, but when it comes down to it…she body shames herself. She’s still overweight but not dangerously so like she was when they had to lift her out of her house in a crane. She also has a bit of a self-righteous attitude. But you know what?? She’s been through a lot! She lost her mother, she nearly died, and now she’s doing her best to show the world you should love yourself. THE END. No exceptions.

I just felt Jack was a pure and precious cinnamon roll. And yes his decisions in the book often absolutely sucked. He hadn’t been diagnosed with prosopagnosia so he basically felt he was falling apart, that he was crazy or broken. Since he’s “face blind” it really freaks him out that he can’t tell people apart. In a room full of kids, he can’t even pick out his own brother. I could feel his fright and anxiety on every page and I just rooted for him to discover having a disability is not shameful and doesn’t make him broken. The book handled it all so well! I can only applaud!

This is definitely a powerful story with really important themes and messages. I also couldn’t stop reading! The chapters are short and punchy and the characters are relatable and precious. What more can one want?!

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Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman was just an incredibly book that I fell absolutely in love with! But the entire story was so so relatable with its themes of teens not knowing what to do with their life, struggling with anxiety, being super stressed over school, and being total geeks and nerds of the internet. This book knows what it is to be a teen! And it sums everything up so beautiful and amazingly I can only clutch the novel and feel so very happy.

9780007559244The story is about Frances who has two interests: (1) be the best of her school and get into Cambridge University, and (2) be absolutely obsessed with a youtube podcast, called Radio Silence, and accidentally met and befriend its secretive creator: Aled. Frances and Aled used to know each other as kids but they drifted apart…and now Frances discovers she’s her ex-friend’s biggest fan?! The world is small. Teeny tiny, basically. The two have an amazing summer of creativity and the best friendship I’ve ever read. But obviously happiness can’t last and this book would rather have your heart broken. There is betrayal, emotional manipulation, missing people, accidents that ruin everything, and teens falling apart as the stresses of pre-uni-entrance mount up.

The characters were definitely a highlight for me. Everything from France’s dorkiness to Aled’s love of the internet. And plus they all wear the most fabulous clothes you have ever heard of. We’re talking about Monsters Inc leggings and unicorn shirts here. And the way the fandom life sneaked into all the pages just made my own fangirl heart continue the rabid flailing it’s been doing since the dawn of time. Plus I found all the characters so relatable and unique and complex!

I’m also a big fan of how the story focused on friendship first and foremost. A non-romantic relationship between a boy and a girl? YES PLEASE.

I’m also so pleased with the amount of diversity diversity representation here. Frances is biracial Ethiopian/caucasian. Aled has anxiety (probably also depression). And most of the characters are queer with bisexual, gay, and asexual characters featuring.

And shout out to Frances’ mum who was actually an awesome parent. Finding epic parents in YA books isn’t like…easy. So it was absolutely lovely to have France’s mum be (A) supporting, (B) geeky too, (C) wear a unicorn onesie, and (D) help out with the kids’ schemes when they needed it.

30628062The whole book was just so realistic. They stopped being characters and just became amazing people you could imagine meeting on the street.

At 500-pages I thought it might not have enough plot to keep me glued to the page. But I was wrong! (Obviously. Everything about this book is perfect.) It’s about being yourself and also discovering what it means to be yourself. It’s also about creating art and being an unapologetic fangirl. There’s also a mystery behind Aled’s disappearing sister (who used to be the crush of Frances’ life) and a subplot of Aled’s emotionally abusive mother. Then there’s like random sleepovers and discussions and midnight math sessions and SNACK BREAKS and everything an epic and beautiful friendship should include. I didn’t want the story to end.

This is a definitely the kind of book anyone facing highschool will relate to. And anyone who likes tumblr and fandom life. And anyone who’s ever felt alone and alienated. Basically: everyone should read it. Probably yesterday.

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Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of Cages by Robin Roe is an incredibly heartfelt and raw story. The writing was beautiful and emotional, and the characters just sneaked off the page until they became incredibly real and relatable people. I was so invested!

I’m also endlessly impressed at how this is a debut book! This author is already on my auto-buy list and I can’t wait for whatever she writes next. A List of Cages was my first five-star read of the year!

Basically this is a story about friendship and abuse. I will warn you: it’s not easy to read. It heavily features child abuse and emotional and mental manipulation. It was thoroughly heartbreaking, also for the fact that these things happen when they shouldn’t. It had me near to tears several times.9781484763803

The story is dual narrated by Adam, a highschool senior with ADHD, and 14 year old Julian, who is a foster kid living with an abusive uncle. Back when Julian first lost his parents, he lived with Adam’s family for a while and they become like brothers. Then Julian vanished when his abusive uncle got custody of him and no one knows what’s going on. As the two attend the same school again, Adam tries to rekindle friendship with Julian and figure out what happened to the bright bubbly kid he once knew.

I loved the emphasis on friendship! Also how it was “unconventional” friendship because the boys aren’t the same age. And I think this is really important to represent in fiction. Not only does it show us that (A) it is awesome and great to be friends with people who aren’t necessarily your same age, and (B) Adam and Julian had an “adopted big brother / little brother” relationship which was absolutely adorable and precious. I love how Adam just stepped up to protect Julian and look out for him.

Even though it was dual narrated it was so easy to tell between the boys’ chapters because they had such different voices! This is just such excellent writing. Adam’s chapters were bouncy and bright and energetic, while Julian’s were reserved and laced with fear.

I also appreciated the representation of disability here! Although it is hard to read at times, because both boys face hurtful treatment due to people dismissing their disabilities. This is actually a sad and realistic truth about “invisible disabilities” like ADHD and Dyslexia. They both got into a lot of trouble at school and it’s heartbreaking. But what I loved was the support network amongst their family and friends and how the boys weren’t portrayed as broken or in need of curing. So encouraging! So wonderful!

The book is actually quite small, so I flew through it in just a few hours! Although sometimes the shortness did work against the novel, in that a few things were glossed over or rushed. Adam’s romance with Emerald didn’t feel nearly explored enough, nor Emerald really fleshed out. And I would’ve liked to know more about Adam’s personal life and have some other facts cleared up that I can’t talk about because of spoilers. But I still appreciated that the book was to the point and absolutely addictive. I just wanted to know if everyone would be okay!

I definitely recommend this book! It gave me so many emotions and absolutely caught me in the feels (a term here which basically says I’m mildly HEARTBROKEN but also filled with hope at the ending). I think it was realistic, relatable, and poignant. The power of friendship is important and knows no bounds!

[purchase here]

Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things by Charaipotra and Clayton was an amazingly and addictive story set in a cutthroat ballet school. There’s nothing like a school of backstabbing ballerinas to make me very grateful I’m an un-athletic potato. I was absolutely glued to the page, however, desperately wondering who was going to survive to the end while my nerves shattered.9780062342393

The story centres around three ballerinas all competing for top of a prestigious ballet school. There can only be one “star” of the show, of course. And they all want it. Gigi is a black dancer and has left everything she’s ever loved and known to attend this dance school. June is a Korean dancer with an eating disorder and a mother who doesn’t believe ballet is worthwhile since June can never land the leading roll. And Bette is living in her older sister’s shadow while trying to dance to the top even though she’s not like her sister. There’s bullying and mental health discussions and the whispered danger of someone taking a prank too far and ballerinas potentially losing the chance to dance. Forever.

loved the writing. The story line was so captivating! It also had a huge cast and yet still managed to flesh everyone out. That is amazing. Most of the characters were completely awful to some degree. But I liked them despite also hating them. I cared about them and I wanted them to succeed even though they were really…horrible to each other.

I loved the three narrators and how their stories were so different yet interwove throughout the plot perfectly.

  • GIGI: She is the best. She’s the “new girl” to the school and an absolutely flawless ballerina. She’s black and the only black ballerina in the older classes, so she often feels ostracized. All the girls are really horrible to her because she’s very very good at dancing and is instantly the teacher’s favourite. She’s also really sweet and nice and kind.
  • BETTE: She’s basically the mean girl. She’s absolutely nasty and vicious and gorgeous and she hates Gigi and woah: please no one leave these girls in a room with a knife, okay? I really didn’t like Bette, but she had such a bad home life I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
  • JUNE: Her point-of-view wasn’t so important to the plot, but I still enjoyed it! She’s half Korean and her father was a mystery dancer, and her mother doesn’t want June to dance because of this. She really struggles with her anorexia and wants to be more than an understudy.

I also have much love for the secondary characters! I suspect Henri is a total psychopath. I loved Alec (Gigi’s boyfriend and Bette’s ex) and he was so sweet but yet oblivious to the damage the girls are causing each other. Will is sweet and gay and never gets lead roles and I feel bad for him. Although I’m furious at about 98% of all the kids’ parents. They pushed their children terribly and no wonder everyone was having a breakdown (me included).

The romance is very complicated and never healthy. Gigi is a better dancer than Bette and then Bette’s boyfriend dumped her and went with Gigi. Cue drama and angst and a lot of girl-on-girl hate. There’s lots of “stealing boyfriends” and cheating amongst the other characters and also emotional manipulation and it’s basically a trainwreck and hard to look away from.

BRIEF LIST OF THINGS I LOVED:

  • set entirely in a ballet boarding school
  • it actually talks about the technical parts of ballet and, as someone who knows naught, I thought it was really interesting to learn
  • there’s so much diversity representation!
  • it addresses mental health issues, particularly eating disorders, and disabilities
  • it’s really suspenseful and darkly addictive
  • it leaves you with so many questions and a huge need for the sequel

 

Tiny Pretty Things is definitely the kind of enthralling story you want in your life! It has a huge mystery element of “who is behind the malicious bullying” and it’ll keep you guessing the whole time. The characters were complex, the writing amazing, and I am in such awe of the amazing ability and dedication it’d take to be a ballerina!

 

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Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

I had no idea what to expect with The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis…but it was absolutely amazing. Although I’m a teeny tiny bit ruined afterwards. But that’s totally okay because everyone likes to finish a book and feel like their feels just got wrung and battered. That aside…this book was all kinds of excellent! I adored the author’s previous book, Not a Drop To Drink, so I should’ve known this would carry similar awesome.9780062320896

It’s one of the best contemporaries I’ve read in 2016! It effortlessly balances (A) complicated moral questions, (B) commentates on rape-culture and how disgusting the act of being apathetic towards it is, (C) it’s completely morally-grey, (D) there is stabbing, and (E) it has some of the most complex and amazing characters I’ve ever read. This book blew me away.

It’s narrated by 3 people — Alex, Jack, and Peekay. I’m not usually a fan of multiple narration, but this book pulled it off perfectly. All three protagonists were amazing, complex, and interesting.

  • ALEX: Her sister was raped and murdered a few years before the story begins, and she’s withdrawn from society. She’s a very intense person. She’s very logical and factual and willing to do wrong to do right. She could be downright cold, and yet she still loved puppies and was fiercely protective of her friends. And if a boy tried to pull any sexist nonsense around her? She would smack them down. She was the Vigilante Batman of Feminism. And completely morally grey with how she took justice into her own hands.
  • PEEKAY: She’s the preacher’s kid (ergo “PK”) and she’s suffering from a bad breakup. She’s also trying to distance herself from her father’s church and legacy. By drinking. I wish the story had explained WHY she wanted to get away from her family’s past, even though she happily goes by the title “Peekay”?? Hmm. But despite that, I loved her complex character and her development! She drew Alex out of her shell too and taught her what friendship truly is.
  • JACK: Admittedly he was completely idiot. He drank a lot and didn’t think logically very much. But he was still well written and his character development was A+. I didn’t like everything he did, or what he thought, or his decision making — but I think that was the point. His romance with Alex was also slow burn and adorable.

“Define success,” I say almost to myself.
“I didn’t kill anyone today,” Alex says.

I’m immensely impressed with the secondary characters too! They were all dimensional and intriguing. I particularly liked Branely, the cliche “mean girl” who for all the world seemed shallow and fake…but she wasn’t. I’m just awed with how the author managed to remind us that everyone is a person with a story even if you don’t get to see the whole thing.

The romance is beautiful. Although it’ll also punch your feels, so you’ve been warned. But I don’t really think the book is focused on romance. It does talk a lot and very openly about sex. It just smacks down the “boys will be boys” mantra and it discusses alcohol addictions and rape culture. It’s very gritty and realistic.

SMALL LIST OF OTHER THINGS I LOVED:

  • It’s set around a vet and animal shelter! Puppy appreciation!
  • The writing is so effortlessly beautiful, with poignant sentences and lyrical prose. It just knocked me flat continually.
  • The story is 100% captivating. Usually I get bored in contemporaries — but not this time. I couldn’t put it down!
  • There is blood.
  • And murder.
  • And situations that will make your brain start screaming.
  • It’s feministic.
  • It makes you think.

All I want to do is say “please read this book”! It’s poignant, it’s beautifully written, the characters are amazing, the writing will melt you. It commentates on society’s warped standards and it’s realistic and brutal and bloody. And there’s puppies, which is the real deal clincher right there.

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Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is equal parts beautiful, emotionally damaging, and incredible. I absolutely adored it. Because who doesn’t like a book that will nearly make you cry?? Obviously everyone loves that kind of thing. For sure. This story is gut-wrenching and precious and inspiring and hopeful and balances darkness and hope using some of the best storytelling I’ve experienced in a long time. 9781783443819

The story is about three protagonists: Dill, Lydia, and Travis. They all live in a tiny gossiping town that is smothering and suffocating them. Dill’s father was a preacher but is now in jail for being a peadophile. So basically everyone hates and distrusts him and he’s severely depressed. Lydia has a loving family but is about to leave town after highschool to pursue further education. Aka she’s leaving all her friends behind. Aka her friends that are not doing very well at all. Travis has an abusive family but he’s the sweetest most loving boy who is obsessed with a fantasy series and uses it as an escape. They all need each other. But everything is falling apart.

It’s a story of survival and friendship. Normally I don’t even like books narrated by three protagonists, because it’s confusing. But Dill, Lydia, and Travis were all so different and complex and relatable and heartbreaking that I loved them all. I can’t even choose a favourite!

 

Brief Overview Of The Characters:

  • DILL: He’s the son of a preacher who’s just been imprisoned for sexual charges and EVERYBODY knows Dill and is disgusted by him. Tiny backwards town, remember? Not very forgiving. His mother hates him, school is hell, he’s got NO FUTURE because he’s stuck in this town and his best friend Lydia is leaving for college and basically he was tragic and adorable and quiet and nearly broken and I couldn’t love him more. He does lash out irrationally with passive-aggressive arguments with Lydia. But I get it?!? When you face losing someone, sometimes you push them away first to help dull the pain.
  • LYDIA: she’s a super famous fashion blogger and only 17 #NoImNotJealousHaHaHa. She’s fashionable, super sassy, epically fabulous, definitely not skinny, and has a future of success paved out before her. I adored her relationship with her parents, too! The banter is hilarious and perfect. I love how she as flawed and flawless.
  • TRAVIS: He was the most adorable dork to ever dork in the universe. He’s obsessed with fantasy, specifically this trilogy which he can’t stop talking about. He’s big and kind and unassuming and just downright lovely. Books about lovely boys need to be more of a thing. I adore how his love of fantasy started turning him towards writing, as an escape from his abusive household, and that was beautiful written.

The writing is also absolutely fantastic. It was heavily dialogue centred and balanced hilarious humour with poignant scenes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I even laughed out loud several times actually! (My dog looked mildly displeased at the noise.) And I loved the contrast of their lives: Dill slowly fading to nothing, Lydia being rich and full of purpose, Travis finding escape in writing.

“And anyway, how is a coffee shop Christian?”
“It implies that normal coffee shops are satanic.”
“Which they totally are. It’s like, can I please just get a cup of coffee without having to kneel before Lucifer and pledge my eternal soul?”
“Here’s your latte. Will that be cash, credit, or the blood of a virgin?”

It really tackles mental illness and it does so perfectly. Depression is not an easy topic and yet The Serpent King really captures the complexity of it.

The Serpent King is definitely an extraordinary book. I am of the loud opinion that everyone should read it. Immediately. It’s definitely a coming of age story about friendship and trying to figure out your future and what you want. It has romance, but it’s not overly romantic. The writing will sweep you along and it will, almost definitely, stab you in the chest one or nine times. It was brutal and hopeful which is a perfect combination.

 

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Review: In the Dark In the Woods by Eliza Wass

In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass is an utterly addictive and seriously messed up story. So I loved it. Of course. It also goes by the title “The Cresswell Plot” (which I admit I am a little more fond of). It’s a YA contemporary that is about a cultish family with a terrifying controlling father and rather feral kids who want something more from their lives. And what they’ll do to get out.9781784299910

The story is from the perspective of Castley who lives in a decrepit house in the woods with her large family and her father who believes they are the perfect chosen ones destined for great things from God. He doesn’t let the kids have friends, they spend hours listening to him read from his cultish book, and they’re only allowed to wear basically sack-cloth. The kids have to go to school, but they’re under strict orders to interact as little as possible. Their father even has them paired off to marry eventually. Yep. Never complain about your family again.

It’s chilling and addictive and you sit there biting your nails and wondering if the father is going to do something really bad at any second.

It also basically has a checklist of things I enjoy reading about:

  • big family (6 siblings) ✓
  • complicated sibling relationships ✓
  • heartbreaking tragic boys ✓
  • minimal romance ✓
  • super freaky moments because you never know if the father might snap and murder the kids or not
  • incredible names (Castley, Mortimer, Hannan, Caspar, Jerusalem and Delvive) ✓
  • excellent writing ✓

 

It’s quite the cult story. Castley’s father has basically written his own “bible” and he abuses the children when they step out of line. The mother is disabled and depressed and can get no help from the outside world because the father thinks anything too modern is evil. I thought the book really captured the confusion of how it’d be to live like this as well. Castley knows her father is wrong, but at the same time this is her family and she loves them. I wanted her to get out of the situation so badly, but at the same time, I didn’t want her to lose her siblings. And she loved her siblings so much, but some of them were brainwashed into thinking their father was right. Stories about abused children are very emotional and I think the book captured this perfectly, while adding in lighter moments and some bantering dialogue, so the overall tone was “terrifying” instead of “utterly depressing”.9781484730430

There cast of characters is huge, but everyone was so complex and interesting! I loved Castley’s narration voice, and she was winning and captivating. Her brothers Mortimer and Casper were also my favourites. Precious darlings. They waxed and waned between rebelling and following in line with the cult father. Jerusalem didn’t speak. Hannan, the oldest, was a bit aloof and somehow bypassed the brunt of all abuse, but he didn’t try to help the others. Ergo I didn’t like him much. Del made herself very timid and nondescript to avoid attention. But the kids totally stole my heart.

The book is rather small so the plot is fast. There are plenty of school scenes, where Castley does drama and finds a “friend” that she develops quite a crush on. She starts to try and find out what it’d be like to live as a “normal” person, while her family situation is escalating as their father runs out of money and goes even more insane. I whipped through it in just a few hours!

In The Dark, In The Woods is a solidly enthralling story with excellent writing and amazing characters. It’s very character focused and I loved how real everyone felt. It was written with visual gorgeousness and I couldn’t stop reading. Like, please, someone duct tape this book to my soul. I love it. Definitely recommend to fans who like cult books, lowkey thrillers, and stories about sibling bonds.

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Review: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

9780143309031After reading Will Kostakis’ book The First Third and being a gargantuan fan, I knew I had to try his latest novel, The Sidekicks. And it was brilliant! (Although I confess to loving The First Third more.) This is mostly because the format in The Sidekicks threw me off a bit, but if I’d known to start with it was going to be from three points-of-view, I would’ve been a lot more prepared. As is, I was so emotional by the end I could feel my glacial heart melting. And that’s the kind of reaction I want in a book!

The story is basically about the death of Isaac and how it leaves his three friends (Ryan, Harley and Miles) all to piece together their lives without him. The twist? Ryan, Harley and Miles aren’t friends. They barely even know each other. Isaac was their link. The death affects them all very differently and they have to (A) own up to knowing darker things about Isaac’s past, and (B) accidentally start working together, and (C) learn to let go.

At first I was dubious that I might not care enough because I didn’t “know” Isaac…but I definitely did end up caring! You get to know Isaac a bit more through some flashbacks. And I loved how the three boys started to depend on each other and help each other out…like they were filling the holes Isaac left. The #SquadGoals were immensely awesome.

Like I said, there’s 3 POVs, one from each of the boys. It’s a short book (under 300-pages) so it doesn’t leave us a lot of room to get to know each boy, but I think the story still did an admirable job of pulling us into Ryan, Harley, and Miles’ worlds.

So a brief run down on the three parts of the story:

  • It starts off with Ryan who is a dedicated swimmer and is also gay but so deep in the closet he’s having tea with Mr. Tumnus. Ryan’s mum is a teacher, so he’s pretty much the goody-goody of the squad. But he also harbours a lot of fears and anxieties about who he is and what it would mean to come out.
  • Then we have Harley. The writing changes styles drastically here and goes rather stilted and jagged to represent how Harley is not very studious at all…and is known to drink and perhaps pass along drugs. But he still has one of those “mildly bad boy golden hearts” which was winning! He had such a good soul.
  • Lastly there’s Miles. I really loved Miles who is a socially-inept nerd and incredibly smart and also runs some black-market operations. He is the one who doubts if he even meant anything to Isaac, who was his only friend…until Miles gets caught up with Ryan and Harley. Miles was really blunt, but still a squishable gem who I really felt for! His ache over losing Isaac was the most palpable.

 

I think the strengths of the story definitley lie in the character development! If only it had been a bit longer, because I would’ve loved to get to know each boy just a bit more deeper than the short chapters allowed. But the plot was amazing, with a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of heartache, and a good dash of hope. I’m endlessly in love with how these characters’ stories unravelled and I loved the diversity representation and how it wasn’t cliche or stereotyped! The book was, naturally, amazing.

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Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is one of the most beautiful books I’ve had the pleasure of devouring at dawn. Actually I devoured it at midday but, please, let’s not get caught up on the details. The fact is: this is an amazingly gorgeous book of romance and writing and bookshops a9781742612386nd I can’t love it enough! Can Cath Crowley do no wrong?! I’ve adored her books A Little Wanting Song and Graffiti Moon and I’m so glad I tried her latest book too. It’s beautiful. I’ll just continue saying that…forever, basically.

The best thing about this book is: IT’S ABOUT BOOKS. I think books about books are (A) the best kind of bookish inception, and (B) doomed to capture readers’ hearts because we all relate! It’s partially set in a failing bookstore that’s facing being sold. It’s stuffed with references to other books, discussions on the importance of words, and letter writing. And being set in a second-hand-book-store just makes the entire thing so very aesthetically pleasing. Hush. That’s a thing.

It does reference newer books amongst the classics too! Although the focus definitely is on the older books (I assume because more people will recognise them).  But it references The Fault in Our Stars and other newer, Aussie books like Summer Skin!

The characters and dialogue were beyond amazing! It’s dual narrated by Henry and Rachel who are ex-best friends and in the process of becoming friends again. (Or more…) Henry is suffering a break up with the girl of his dreams and Rachel is recovering from the death of her younger brother. Both have their issues. And their secrets. And both need to be smacked with a large book occasionally for their selfish and deluded reasonings. But ultimately I loved them! Henry had an amazing sense of humour and was a huge bookworm. Rachel had snappy comebacks and was learning how to live through her depression. Plus their banter is amazingness.

“What?” she asks.
“Your head,” I tell her, “is a very pleasing shape.”
“Likewise,” she says, and smiles.

I also adored the secondary characters! They were all complex and amazing, with their own character arcs, trials, and focuses.

It does sort of contain a love-triangle, but it is a perfectly written one. Usually I’m very anti-triangles, but this was such an intriguing one because, for starters, it was 1 boy = 2 girls. And secondly, it’s very shippable. Henry was pretty deluded about his ex and Rachel was deluded about her feelings for Henry. You can’t help rooting for them to work out their differences and get together!

The book has a very comfortable, calming vibe. This in no way means the book is dull! It is the opposite to dull. But since it was set in a cosy bookshop with lots of food and banter and contained teenagers with excellent vocabularies who love of dusty old books…it just felt so comfortable to read! It was equally sad, moving, and beautiful. I’d call it a “quiet book” and mean that in the best possible way.

Basically I love this book an exuberant amount. Obviously. I can’t get over how beautifully Cath Crowely stitches words together and how easy it was to get sucked into this marvellous story and end up nearly crying over a gorgeous bookstore being sold. (Please! No!) I loved the letter writing, the plot twists, and the intense love of second-hand books. My bookworm soul is thoroughly won over.

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5 Reasons To Read The First Third By Will Kostakis

It recently hit me that I hadn’t read The First Third by Will Kostakis yet and this is a huge tragedy. Why? Because this is a diverse Australian YA contemporary and it came out in 2013, so why did it take me so long to read it?! I’m glad I launched in this year, because it was stupendous. I definitely recommend it.

And in case you need more convincing, I have a glorious list of 5 reasons why you should try this book!

9780143568179What’s it About?

Life is made up of three parts: in The First Third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made. That’s how Billy’s grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together. No pressure or anything. Fixing his family is not going to be easy and Billy’s not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what? It’s a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.

 

6 Reasons To Read The First Third

1. It’s about a Greek family!

I personally think this is immensely exciting because firstly (A) yay for diversity in YA fiction, and (B) Greek culture is absolutely wonderful and I was so excited to dive into more of it! Bill has been raised in Australia but his grandmother is still very very Greek and he abides by a lot of Greek traditions. I loved absorbing the bits and pieces of culture as I read.

 

2. It’s very family focused.

Of course there is romance, because Bill is 17 and kind of concerned that he’s never managed to keep a girlfriend (like, he kisses them and they run away #awkward). But the book is more focused on his Grandmother who’s in hospital for liver failure, and on Bill’s two brothers. Bill’s brothers are…let’s just say…not the best and his older brother lives in Brisbane and is NEVER around. And his younger brother is deep in a moody-angsty-teen stage. Bill’s way of trying to relate and connect them is equal parts hilarious and endearing.

 

3. There is so much Greek food.

Hello to reading about GLORIOUS GREEK FOOD! My mouth was literally watering at all the descriptions. The very first chapters is a messy and chaotic meal (with a hundred dishes in Tupperware containers) in the hospital with the grandma. It’s hilarious and delicious. Wait I’m not even sure I should be praising this book here because it made me downright hungry. Excuse me while I go devour my paperback.

 

4. It involves a bucket list.

I’m so addicted to lists. I write lists ALL THE TIME. So any book that involves a list is going to turn me into a wildly rabid fan. Even though Bill’s grandmother’s liver problem isn’t being dubbed as fatal or anything, she still has written a bucket list and demanded that Bill complete it for her. It basically involves getting his mother a new husband and getting his brothers to start talking. So, just all slightly impossible.

 

5. It really values friendship too!

Bill has an epic friend, Lucas, who is downright hilarious, gay, and also has cerebral palsy. I loved their banter and how eager Lucas was to help Bill complete the impossible bucket list — even though the way they go about it is sometimes dubious. But they were totally friendship goals. I loved them!

 

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Review: The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney

The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney is an incredible tale that is part coming-of-age story and part murder-mystery. Except the one in question who is murdered is only a horse. So don’t panic too much. (This book doesn’t tangle very deeply in the dark side.) It is narrated by Jacob who also has Cerebral Palsy. And it’s an Australian homegrown book! So much to love here!9780732299941

What’s it About?

Everyone thinks they know what Jacob O’Leary can and can’t do – and they’re not shy about telling him either. But no one – not even Jacob – knows what he’s truly capable of. And he’s desperate for the chance to work it out for himself. When a shocking and mystifying crime sends his small country town reeling, and fingers start pointing at the newcomer, Jacob grabs the chance to get out in front of the pack and keep mob rule at bay. He’s convinced that the police have accused the wrong guy; that the real villain is still out there. And he’s determined to prove it – and himself – to everyone.

 

When I heard about this book, I leap towards it for several reasons. (1) The Aussie factor always wins me over because I don’t read nearly enough books from my own country. (2) Jacob is in his finale year of highschool and facing Big Life Decisions, which is always relatable, and he also has cerebral palsy, which is something I’ve only read about in one other book! (That book is Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern.) (3) THERE IS A MURDER MYSTERY. And it was a good story! I read it in just a few hours because it’s super short, but it was definitely satisfying and wonderful.

Jacob is a pretty awesome protagonist. He didn’t let anything hold him back. Plus he was sassy and capable and just downright cool. He stood up for himself to bullies, but he still was venerable and suffered a lot with his condition. He felt frustrated when people judged him unfairly because of it. And, well, I was so frustrated with how other people would judge him. There is cruelty and discrimination in this book, some of it accidental, and some of it intentional.

The plot is 80% school and 20% “oh things are dead”. But, like I said: animal deaths. So a horse and a pig have been murdered and the town is blaming the local Muslim family for it. Jacob wisely says, “hey where’s your proof!” and therefore he kind of gets caught up in debunking this unfair blame game.

I loved the amount of diversity in this book! Such a good representation of Australia, too, since we’re quite the multicultural nation. Not only does it feature disabilities — it also touches on racism and cultural differences.

The Beauty Is In The Walking is a quick and fun and engaging. I definitely learned more about CP, which is grand. And I think Jacob was a winning dude and I seeing the world from his perspective. Also the Aussie slang and culture just made the book feel endlessly homey. Plus someone gets called a “dingbat”, which just goes to show how awesome we Australians are at insults. I loved the relationship between Jacob and his older brother, and I loved the emphasis on finals and “what do you want to do with your life”, which is a question I think all teens relate to. It’s a solidly good book and definitely recommended!

 

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Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

After absolutely adoring My Life Next Door, I was super excited to pick up Huntley Fitzpatrick’s companion novel: The Boy Most Likely To. Was it good? OH YES VERY MUCH SO. But before we dive into my (ah…flailing) review — I do think it’s important to read My Life Next Door first! While the companion novel is by the point of view of a different character, the first book does provide needful backstory.9781405280396

But onwards!

The Boy Most Likely To is about Tim who is, basically, a drop-kick. He’s been kicked out of school, he’s got severe addiction habits, and his own family doesn’t really want anything to do with him. But he’s cleaning himself up! He’s going to AA meetings and he’s living above the garage of his best friend’s house: Jace Garrett. The Garrett family has, um, a gazillion kids and they are just downright awesome. And Tim has a ginormous crush on the oldest daughter, Alice — although Alice is about as warm and cuddly as an iced over cacti. Good times! And just when things are looking up, Tim gets a HUGE BOMB DROPPED ON HIM that changes everything. Still more good times!

It’s such an adorably tragic story at time that my heart hurts. I was a fan of Tim already from My Life Next Door, but this just cemented my love for him. (Plus anyone who’s name is “Tim” automatically reminds me of Tim Tams and that’s just beautiful.) I loved how sassy and witty Tim’s comebacks were! Plus his character development is just amazing throughout the story. I loved being in his perspective! Although it was super sad at times…because even though he’s trying to kick his addictions, he still has so much baggage from them. Plus his family is 0% supportive. It would be so hard to be strong and stay on track with s little support.

Plus I really like how this book talks openly about addictions and recovery. Tim is a recovering alcoholic. I do see many YA books talking about falling into the addiction route, but rarely do I find one that is about getting out of it. So this is such a super important story! Seeing the fall is needful: seeing the recovery is twice as important.

But let’s talk about Alice! The book is actually dual-narrated by both Alice and Tim and I’m immensely pleased about that. Because while they like each other, they’re not entirely honest. Tim covers up his attraction to Alice with sassy jokes, and Alice is too sharp to admit she has intense feelings for Tim. Please, children. TALK TO EACH OTHER. Alice is also under a lot of pressure to look after her million-and-two-siblings after her father’s accident and her mother being pregnant again. Plus she’s had to divert her nursing course. Poor Alice. I get why she’s so sharp! But it was agony waiting for her and Tim to move past that and admit feelings for each other!

Also, of course, we must mention how awesome the Garrett family is! I love reading about big families! And the representation here is on point. Just the kids’ banter and the messes and dynamics…ahhhh! It was honestly perfect (and this is coming from someone who has first hand experience with large families: ahem, that would be me).

Of course there are plenty of plot twists that will keep you glued to the page. And there are a lot of pages actually. I thought, at 500-pages, it could’ve sped things up a little and not dragged so much in the middle. But considering these characters are adorable, I didn’t mind too much. Plus the plot twists were just WOAH and equal parts adorable and daunting. The story will definite have you feeling aaaall of the things.

Basically, The Boy Most Likely To is a new favourite contemporary of mine! It had feels! It had big families! It had tragic but adorable protagonists! Tim and Alice were far from perfect and their relationship was rocky to say the least, but it was so so excellently written.

 

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Review: The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

I was excited and nervous to dive into The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie FornaiserHer debut novel, Masquerade (an Italian-based historical fiction!) was absolutely stupendous. And I was entirely curious to see how she’d go writing a contemporary dealing with social anxiety disorders. But this book is practically flawless. Honestly I’m so pleased with it! It features the cutest characters of ever, incredible writing, and a careful and honouring portrayal of Social Anxiety and Selective Mutism. All I can do is applaud!9780143573630

Actually, I can totally do more than applaud. TIME FOR AN ENTHUSIASTIC REVIEW AS WELL.

The story is about Piper who has Selective Mutism. Before reading this book I knew basically 2% about Selective Mutism and I’d never read a book on it. Piper hasn’t stopped speaking because of a traumatic event — she has Social Anxiety and she’s had it most of her life. She can talk. And she does around her family and with any friends she’s super close to. But she never talks in public due to her astronomically high levels of anxiety. And you know what?!? It was just so well written. I appreciated the accurate and thoughtful representation and the detailed though process of Piper’s reactions to stressful situations.

The story follows Piper as she’s starting a new school. Which is always hard because she can’t talk and people rarely understand and force her into situations that make it worse. She left her old school because of a Big Bad Thing that we readers are basically desperate to find out whyyyyy. I could basically feel the tension and anxiety and hopelessness leaking off the pages as Piper navigates the world. But yet she still keeps up a fairly good humour despite it! Plus she does make some friends. It’s so adorably encouraging to see some of the school kids taking her under their wing.

The romance is entirely adorable! Although I’m not the biggest romantic of ever….oh gosh, I was definitely shipping this. There’s a slow-burn and super sweet relationship between Piper and a boy she meets at school: West. They start off passing notes and then merging to tutoring and it’s just downright adorable. West does push at at Piper several times, questioning why she won’t speak to him when she clearly likes him. It’s complicated, okay?!? But whenever he does something sucky he actually apologies. Like, dude. This is unbelievably good. Plus on top of West’s manners and charm, his passion is cooking! He gets excited about the thought of truffles and opening a restaurant (!!) and what is not to like about this boy?!

I immensely enjoyed reading about Piper’s epic family too. She has 3 siblings and 2 fantastically loving, joking, supportive parents! Sometimes they don’t truly understand her mutism, but they try. Her parents will put her into expensive therapies if it’ll help, and they are there for her, and they don’t force her into doing anything that will freak her out. Plus they have family game nights and excuse me but I love them all.

Of course there’s plenty of DRAMA, too. The ending was nearly cheesy with plenty of feel-good moments and a few convenient plot twists, but it was still done super sweetly. The story just has so many fabulous elements! Cooking! Emailing trees! Mutism! Glorious happy family dynamics! Disney’s Frozen references! Photography! I can overlook the drama llama tendencies.

All in all: The Things I Didn’t Say was beautifully written and incredible to read. It had frank and meaningful and accurate discussions and portrayals about anxiety disorders. Plus it had a bit of fluff, some quirky moments, jokes, and several people singing Let It Go when the need arose. Piper is definitely a protagonist you get attached to and become very proud of. I’m so super pleased this book exists!

 

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Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was delightfully messed up. It’s a whimsical YA contemporary with a fairy tale vibe that nearly makes it seem magical realism. And it’s basically populated by slightly psychotic characters. But don’t fret! They’re adorable psychos. (Ahem.) After finishing my brain basically just spun with emotions and I feel like I did paddle in a bucket full of crazy. With no regrets.23203106

What To Expect In This Story:

  • Magical, fairy-tale whimsical writing
  • A love triangle
  • But the most messed-up triangle you have ever seen
  • Mind games
  • Characters who mess with each other because what the heck; they’re teens; it’s summer; lets read your tarot cards and predict DEATH MWAHAHHAHA
  • Minor magical realism
  • Plot twists that will leave you splattered upon the ground
  • So many strawberries
  • Toxic friendships
  • Feelings of strangulation towards the characters; but also sadness and the need to possibly cuddle or protect them all.

 

I definitely did enjoy this one! It’s told by 3 point-of-views, which usually is not my favourite, but I quite enjoyed how the author pulled it off. Plus everyone had very different voices! Wink’s chapters always read like a fairy tale, while Poppy’s were feisty and Midnight’s morose. The combination just made me feel like I fell into a magical fairy tale summer.

  • MIDNIGHT: He’s like this very sad lonely pancake that everybody adores and wants to maliciously devour. I felt rather sorry for him. He’s trying to get away from the toxic relationship he had with Poppy but she acts like she owns him. Midnight was super cute! I do think he was emotionally/sexually abused by Poppy which made me so sad for him.
  • POPPY: She’s a psychopath. Like, the end. SHE IS ONE. She plays mind games, hates everyone, has no feelings, and ruins lives for the “lolz”. She’s a manic pixie dream mean girl.
  • WINK: She’s Midnight’s new next-door-neighbour…the feral wild child who’s grown up with a tarot-reading mother and 5 siblings and they all just tumble around in permanent fairy tales. She believes in supernatural mystical things. She’s just not really into reality, okay? Which is fair, reality sucks. But she’s so very calm and unemotional the whole book, which makes me suspect she has psychopathic tendencies.

 

Wink kissed deep. Deep as a dark, misty, forest path. One that lead to blood and love and death and monsters.

It’s basically a revenge/mystery/discovery plot. Midnight wants to get away from Poppy; Midnight falls for Wink; Poppy tries to break them up; but Poppy has a thing for Wink’s brother. It’s like a love triangle, but it’s much more complicated. And even though I’m an avid triangle hater, I enjoyed the twisty-ness of this one.

It is very vivid with the description! (Although at times it got rather repetitive.) But it drew you in with vibrant colours and sensory details so I felt like I was experiencing the summer with the characters.

“You just have to eat a strawberry and then wait for tomorrow.”

 

I also listened to the audio book which I can’t recommend enough! It has 3 audio narrators too to differentiate between the characters. It also flowed so nicely and musically that I’m super glad I chose this way to devour the story, although I did feel the narrators read a little slowly. So be prepared for that.

I definitely enjoyed Wink Poppy Midnight. It was such a different story and all the mind twisting had me wondering who was telling the truth. I honestly had no idea what exact crazy twist would happen or whether ghosts and murderers would pop out of the woodwork.

 

[buy it here]

Review: The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno

The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno is a precious little bookish creature built for anxious people with internet friendships. It’s so very relatable! I immediately felt at home with the teens who confessed it’s easier to make friends online sometimes. (YES IT IS.)

Although, be ye warned: It’s actually contemporary with a slight dose of magical realism. The magical aspect isn’t going to drown you, but it’s still there. Things go “missing” in the story and end up appearing in impossible places.

9780062231208What’s It About?

Frannie and Louis met online when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face, and they don t know each other s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, really, things just seem to . . . disappear.FOUNDLouis and Frannie both receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The story is dual narrated by Frances and Louis. Both narrators have very distinct voices and I was invested in both their lives. Frances lives with her grandparents because her own parents are pretty crazy. And she’s wondering if a famous movie star is actually her father. Louis has severe PTSD and anxiety after his twin sister fell out of a window and lost both her legs. And he’s a tennis champ. And he’s not sure if he should move off to college. Because anxiety.

I adored Louis and his twin sister, Willa. Their relationship was fantastic and full of sibling banter and tension. Willa’s really matter-of-fact about her disability and basically lets nothing stop her. She puts up with stares and discrimination over it, but it doesn’t get her down.

The story also is full of diversity! Louis and Willa are half-Indian. Willa has no legs. France’s adopted cousin, Arrow, is Vietnamese. It talks openly and honestly about anxiety disorders.

I also am a huge fan of the way it portrayed internet friendships! So often I see books only outline all the horrible things that can happen on the internet…but that’s not always how it goes down, okay?! Sometimes you meet the nicest most special people online! Louis and Frances had been friends online for several years before they decided to meet up. I mean, they were safe about the meet up. They took friends for backup. But ultimately, it was all sweet and real! It’s a great reminder of the power of internet friendships.

As for the magical realism aspect? Both Frances and Louis are always LOSING stuff. It just disappears. I did like this a lot, because when you have anxiety, you actually often lose track of things. So I appreciate how it added in something real like that, but put in a magical twist.

Ultimately, this book resonated with me so much! Coupling internet friendships with accurate portrayal of mental illness and witty banter and delicious tacos…I had no choice but to adore it! It’s also entirely quotable and precious. The writing was utter perfection and it was fast and easy to read, yet complex and poignant.

 

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Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

9781481401272The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler was a) my first read by this author, b) one of my new favourite contemporaries of 2016, and c) an entirely adorable sea cucumber of goodness. I so thoroughly approve of this book! It had everything a summery contemporary needs: excellent characters; lots of boating and beachy scenes; teenagers eating half a universe worth of seafood; and people standing up for what they believe in and using their voice.

I absolutely loved the theme of “use your voice”. Especially since the narrator, Elyse, was mute after an accident. But the book just went onto to underline and prove that there are SO MANY WAYS of speaking up for yourself. And no one ever deserves to be voiceless.

Also this is a modernised retelling of The Little Mermaid! HOW COOL IS THAT, RIGHT?! I’m such a huge fan of retellings and I particularly love this kind — it can stand on its own, or you can look for the little nods to the original. (Like Elyse’s aunt was named Ursula and the love-interest’s little brother was Sebastian. I love it!)

It absolutely wins for the diversity representation too!! Elyse is from Trinidad & Tobago and mute. Also her cousin is half T&T. It’s so refreshing to have characters of colour and books that discuss physical disabilities. HUZZAH. MORE OF IT.

There’s a definite air of mystery about the “accident” too. Since Elyse WILL NOT GIVE DETAILS. I busted half and eyebrow wondering. All we get to know is that a) Elyse nearly drowned, b) she lost her voice forever, and c) it involves her sister which is why Elyse has left T&T and is living with her aunt in the USA. I want aaaaanswers. (Also the reveal was pretty devastating and gloriously written.)

Plus the book discussed equality. Which fills me with GREAT JOY because equality is a big deal and I loved the theme of “speaking up for yourself and others who can’t”. Like Elyse faced prejudice for wanting to sail in the “boys’ pirate regatta”. Sebastian (the love interest’s little 6-year-old brother) wanted to march in the “girls’ mermaid parade”. And the adults were so condescending about refuting them. AGH. It made me so proud to see the teens of the story just PUNCH those rules and keep speaking up for equality. Even if they couldn’t actually speak.

I also really adored Elyse as a character. There’s still plenty of dialogue, of course, and she communicates through writing — but mostly we have her interior thoughts and monologues. And…I just feel like I really know Elyse. She is definitely the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. Elyse was complicated and suffering and trying to piece herself back together after the accident and AHHH I JUST ADMIRE HER BRAVERY SO SO MUCH. Also her relationship with Christian was adorable and so shippable.

Plus the book has just a gorgeous setting. Mostly beachy and slightly witchy (because Elyse’s aunt is all into herbs and tarot cards and organic tea or whatnot). Also excellent writing. Excellent! I just want to go find more by this author and devour it.

Obviously I am a rather rabid fan of this story! I awed at how many characters there were and how they were ALL so dimensional and well-written. But I also crave fish and chips, so thanks for nothing, book. I totally think this book is underrated and deserves more love! It’s empowering and special and full of seaweed. Definitely recommend!

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Bro by Helen Chebatte

I picked up Bro by Helen Chebatte particularly because it promised a) diversity, b) a fight club (!!) and c) an Australian setting. And I love Aussie books, I truly do! And I particularly love ones that acknowledge what a diverse and multi-cultural country we are. And Bro totally rules this.

9781760125509

About The Book:

What happens when you mix teenage boys, a fight club and ethnic rivalries? You get war. Romeo Makhlouf knows the rules. Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates or even on your enemies. Respect the family. But even unwritten rules are made for breaking. Fight clubs, first loves and family ties are pushed to the limit in Helen Chebatte’s explosive debut novel.

 

But despite Bro ticking a lot of “this book should be awesome” boxes…it ultimately wasn’t my kind of book. (Teenage boys, peoples, they’re just…such stinky, alien creatures.) But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book! And I think it will definitely appeal to teens, particularly boys, and it definitely was a fast and interesting read.

Basically Romeo (yes that’s his name!) is Lebanese and falls into a lot of default rivalries at school. When the book starts, he walks you through all the “cliques”, from the Asians to the Lebanese to the Aussies to the Islanders. It’s all pretty “stick-with-the-bros-of-your-own-culture”, which I found pretty sad. But I guess not unrealistic. And the boys’ cliques were definitely like family! All the Lebanese boys absolutely stood up for each other and took exactly no hasselling from anyone else before they were out for revenge. So obviously you know where this is heading right?

Someone gets offended. FIGHTS START.

I was a bit annoyed that the big “offence” was basically over a girl. Again, realistic….But it seemed shallow to read about.

Oh and yes, and it’s very Australia. It’s absolutely stuffed with Aussie slang. I actually struggled with some of it, despite being an Aussie myself, because I’d never heard some of the phrases. But I was quite surprised it had next to no swearing in it. I felt that was the only unrealistic liberty it took…but it does make the book appropriate for any age audience, so kudos to it there.

I found the ethnic rivalries very interesting…because they seemed in place BEFORE the boys even had issues with each other. Like it’s Romeo vs Palmer. Lebanese vs Australian. The book also really talks about what it’s like to be from a different ethnicity but raised in Australia. Like are you an Aussie if you’re born in Australia, but live entirely with Lebanese culture?

Bro is definite grimy, punchy, Australian contemporary that younger teens will totally enjoy! The characters aren’t the most dimensional things I’ve ever encountered, but they do ask some BIG questions and get you thinking. Also you get to know THE BRO CODE, which — if you’re a completely deluded person like I who lives in a fantasy book — is really interesting. Also there’s Lebanese food involved. And brawls. Punchy, punchy, bro.

[purchase here]

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

9781742973951Oh where do I even start to sum up my love for Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil?! The awesomeness of this book is mind-blowing. I’m shouting its praises far and wide and adding it to my “favourite of ever” shelf. It ticks all the boxes: good writing, excellent characters, adorable romance. OH and did I mention this is an Australian book?! Let us just skyrocket to the moon in the awesomeness category.

Contrary to suspicions aroused by the title, this is not a sci-fi novel. It’s an adorably realistic Aussie contemporary. The narrator is 16-year-old Sam (not Sammy, don’t even think about it), who goes to a dodgy high school and wishes he could fast-forward his life…about 20 years, or so. He’s obsessed with films (old horrors particularly) and he writes screenplays. His current project is Killer Cats from the Third Moon of Jupiter (it’s a working title). Sam thinks it sucks, like every other part of his life.

I really like Sam. He felt very realistic (down to the “grunting over holding a conversation”…and anyone with a brother will know what that’s like) and I honestly feel like he’s a character you could meet in real life.

The secondary characters are equally marvellous and well written. Everyone just leaped off the page and they were all dimensional an complex. Firstly there’s Mike, Sam’s best friend — he’s gay and quiet and has “one expression” and only Sam can tell he has other emotions. They’re like DUDE BEST BUDS. And I love a book about friendship like this. Then there’s Adrian…who feels like “that friend you have” but sometimes wish you didn’t? He’s described as a troll. How nice. Then there’s Allison, who is, unfortunately, the weakest part of the team because I honestly forget what even her point is since it’s been a while since I read the book.

And Camilla…ah, Camilla. She’s the “love interest” and I ADORED HER FROM DAY DOT. She’s an epic combination of geek, smartness, music and mischievous. Camilla is perfect, but yet not stuck up or snobbish. JUST PERFECT FOR READING ABOUT.

As for the actual story? Well obviously I’m an enormously enthuastic fan. I MEAN COME ON. You saw that coming! It didn’t drag, although it’s not speedy-paced story. And the writing is utterly fantastic. It’s witty and awkward, and wins for the dialogue. Absolutely wins.

As for the romance? Okay, Sam is like 90% clueless. SO. That’s a little annoying to read, but I won’t say it’s not realistic. Ahem. And I think Sam and Camilla’s relationship is slow building and sweet and AWKWARD. But sweet.

And endless shrieking happiness that the book is Australian! I read a lot of American literature? So this is like a refreshing returning-home…with all the slang and the culture and mannerisms. I understood these references!

This book made my day.

“I think, because…well, I like the idea of coming up with a story that never existed before, but I don’t really want to be in charge. I don’t want to be famous. I guess I like the idea of sitting in the dark and knowing that I created the thing on screen, that it’s my story, but, like, no-one else has to know it was me. Does that make sense?”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

9780142426043My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick absolutely wrapped around my heart and turned me into a snowcone of happiness and sprinkles. It successfully kidnapped my attention and held it! And I am so impressed right now, because usually I’m a contemporary snob, but My Life Next Door ticked all the boxes of awesome.

It had a checklist of my favourite things in YA Contemporaries!!

  • Huge emphasis on large family (which you don’t see much in books!)
  • A slow burn romance that started off as a friendship.
  • All the secondary characters had personalities and lives, and no one felt like a cardboard cutout.
  • IT HAD FUNNY MOMENTS.
  • Plenty of food.

What I was most impressed about is how the book did big families RIGHT. Being part of a large family is like its own culture, truly. And yet this book got all the details right. Even to the point of going to the shop and having comments on “why do you have so many kids” and the prejudice towards big families. The Garrett’s have 8 kids. It perfectly captures the calamity of babies ditching clothes, toys everywhere, the sibling fights and love, and the chaos.
The story is about Samantha, who lives (OBVIOUSLY!!) next door to the Garrett’s. She’s spent most of her childhood “spying” on them. Her life is totally pristine, but miserable. They seem really happy, but such a mess. I loved the contrast! Sam wasn’t my favourite character though, because she seemed a bit bland. Calm, quiet, rich, capable…blah, blah. Even after the book I still don’t know much about Sam herself.

Jase Garrett was the 8th wonder of the universe.  He fixed things. He took care of the babies. He was sweet and yet tough and loved cars and pulled off the “bad boy” leather jackets while simultaneously cuddling little siblings and putting them to bed. He was so sweet to Sam! I shipped it! I loved their banter and yet their sensibleness when it came to relationships.

“It is as if everything else in the world stops as we lie here in the summer night.”

The plot took me on a whirlwind of emotions! The writing was quite detailed, so I had to go slow to get all the details…but it made me feel really inside the story. I also appreciated that there weren’t any wild drunk parties in this book. They seem the contemporary “norm” and I almost always zone out — but My Life Next Door focused on  studying, and work, and friendship. It also has a huge focus on politics, which wasn’t for me, but it didn’t overtake the story. And that finale?! Ohhh, wow. I flipped pages frantically and WAILED. It presents a massive moral dilemma and it was gut-wrenching.

Basically this is an astoundingly adorable and heart-warming contemporary. You need it in your life, okay? I’m entirely impressed that it delved into what it was like to have a big family and how the characters were responsible as well as fun and entertaining. I laughed, I squawked, I sniffled. It moved me.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Fans of the Impossible Life is an exceptionally magnificent YA contemporary and I AM SO HAPPY! I felt totally caught up in this book. I wanted to laugh and cry and maybe howl (because heartbreak) and I definitely ended up craving pizza. I am a fan of this book. (Get it?! Fan…because…okay, never mind.)

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

9781509805143Fans of the Impossible Life is the story of love, loss, growing up and the magic – and terror – of finding friends who truly see the person you are and the person you’re trying to become. It’s a story about rituals and love, and of those transformative friendships that burn hot and change you, but might not last. Sebby and his best friend Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.

 

I really adored how it was written 3 styles! There are three narrators — Jeremy, Mira, and Sebby. And each one uses 1st, 3rd, or 2nd person! I’ve never read a book that used all 3 before and it worked so well.

The best part of contemporaries, for me, is how character driven they are. I loved all three of our messed up, emotional narrators. But let’s have a quick run-down on each, okay? Okay.

  • MIRA: She’s a completely relatable character and I adored her! She wasn’t skinny and struggled with her self-image, and she loved thrift shopping and she had chronic fatigue and depression. I wailed as people just dismissed her depression as “nothing” and left her to struggle alone. I feel like this book represented depression honestly and realistically.
  • SEBBY: He’s a broken, messed-up and completely sassy dude. I basically felt he was an adorable little…fool. He makes such bad decisions! I loved his sass and his quips and how he was an explosion of life and colour and glitter. He’s gay and a foster kid and has had a tortured past.
  • JEREMY: He’s the quiet one, who lives in his protective shell after Something Bad Happened. He did come out of his shell a bit, but he stayed quiet. Proof that you can have friends and a life and still be reserved! Yay for quiet people! Also he’s an artist and questioning his sexuality and basically just trying to survive highschool.

These three definitely go down as one of my favourite literary friendships.

Except, there was one thing that bothered me: Mira’s “chronic fatigued” just vanished from the storyline. NOT OKAY. Just because your life is going well doesn’t mean your illnesses will vanish. I felt it wasn’t a fair representation to those with chronic fatigue.

But that aside this was simply a magical book. It’s about growing up and sadness and struggling with figuring out who you are. It’s about love. It’s about confusion. It’s about FRIENDSHIP (which I think is incredibly important and always fabulous to read about).  This was everything I wanted in a YA contemporary — sassy, relatable, funny and occasionally heart-wrenching.

I AM A FAN.

(….I had to say it. I just did.)

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

9780857984739Oh this book is utterly glorious! I picked up Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth on impulse and am totally glad I gave it a chance. This book is so special and I’m squawking with the effort of writing a review to give it justice!

It’s about Australian twins, Justine and Perry (who has autism), who go for a holiday in Canada. I adore books about Australians, especially since I read 80% USA and UK fiction, so I especially appreciated all the words like “sticky-beak” and references to “Possum Magic”. It’s all so very AUSSIE, MATE. The humour is very Australian too. Lots of sarcasm. Lots of dry wit.

I do squint distrustfully at the blurb though, because technically it’s a “holiday” not a “roadtrip”. They go in an airplane across the ocean to Canada. Yes, there is a bit of driving. But one does not call a flight to Canada a “roadtrip”. Sheesh.

But we need to talk about these exceptionally perfectly written characters! I absolutely adored both Justine and Perry! It’s dual narrated, and I think that helped me really get to know BOTH sides of the story — what it’s like to live with a disability, and what it’s like to care for someone with one.

The twins’ father just died, so the holiday is a little respite before Big Life Changes happen. Perry isn’t specifically labelled with Autism (it’s referred to as a “brain condition”) but he has all the traits and I feel this was possibly the author’s way of avoiding labels? I adored how different the two teens’ narrative was! Justine was really down to earth, but Perry had long complex sentences and imagined wild things and had a very literal view of the world. Justine was all types of awesome. She was caring. She was stressed. She was capable. She struggles with a lot of things (potentially moving away from Perry to begin her own life) and wondering if she was doing the right or wrong thing.

Also, like the stalker I am, I snuck to the author’s blog and read about how he wrote this book for his own children! His own son has autism and a twin sister. It made me really trust the book, because I feel like the author knows what he’s talking about! And also, n’awwww. Isn’t it sweet?! I love it when books have a personal flair like this.

And it’s also super funny and dryly witty. Did I mention that already?!?

Yes, go straight through. No need for passports. We love Australians here in Canada…We know you’ve had a rough flight. We know you’ve had a rough LIFE. All those sharks and snakes and rugby players trying to kill you every moment of the day. Far be it from us to make things more difficult. And, here, have this leftover gold medal from the Vancouver Winter Olympics. You’ve earned it.

I definitely loved this book and appreciated how it was an honest and detailed view of autism as well as an incredible story about friendship, siblings, and growing up.

 

[PURCHASE]

Review: When You Leave by Monica Ropal

22928890Okay, wow, this book took me by surprise. It did look delicious, of course (I’m notorious for picking up books based on extreme cover love) and the promise of muuuurder (I’m normal, I swear) added an extra hook. But the first 30% was so much teen angst, cheating relationships, lying, and general meanness all round that I was about to throw up my hands and run away. I’m SO glad I didn’t. When You Leave by Monica Ropal developed into a mind whirling whodunnit mystery.

I’m definitely a fan of murder mysteries. And this book’s ending is EXTRAORDINARY.

It’s narrated by Cass. She’s a snarky skater and goes to a private school where she doesn’t really “belong”. She’s built walls to stop herself being hurt because her BFF, Mattie, nearly died of throat cancer when they were kids. She still has her tight-knit group of skater friends, but is an absolute snob to the rich kids at her school. Cass was pretty unlikeable, but she’s supposed to be that way. This is a story of her growing. I really liked the end result and her character development was well written.

SO. MURDER? Someone kills a kid, Cooper, at Cass’ school. BUT WHO DID IT?! I couldn’t figure it out! I suspected EVERYONE. One of Cass’ skater friends is the police’s suspect, but what if it was one of Cooper’s jock friends? WHAT IF IT WAS MATTIE?!! I loved Mattie. He was a sweetie, and also mute, but as he and Cass grew apart through the stress in the story…I worried about him being a suspect too. I literally couldn’t put the book down after 60%!

There is romance, since Cooper (pre-death; there are no zombies in this book unfortunately) and Cass were a secret couple. But it really isn’t the focus, which is refreshing in YA since everything usually seems so romance focused. Mattie and Cass have an awesome friendship that was purely platonic. I found it quite refreshing!

I have  a few negatives, mainly that:

  • The beginning was a bit sleepy. Still intriguing though! Just make sure you push past that to get to the scary, juicy parts.
  • I worried about Mattie, who is mute, having zero forms of communication!! (This isn’t really a negative on the storytelling, though.) The book says he speaks solely through his “eyes”, but how is that logical? Let me snort. No one can go through life communicating JUST like that, yet, even in his final years of high school he didn’t appear to be learning sign language. So I questioned the realism, but that’s really only a tiny issue.

I definitely enjoyed this one! The mystery was so well done and literally EVERYONE was a liar at some point and it was so so suspicious. I loved Cass by the end and totally recommend this to fans of contemporaries and mysteries and lovers of books like We Were Liars.

“I’m afraid…that when the next person leaves with a piece of my heart..there won’t be anything left.” ~ When You Leave

 

[PURCHASE WHEN YOU LEAVE]

Review: Soil by Jamie Kornegay

9781444782936There is something about stories set in the American south, particularly those in and around the Mississippi. Whether they are classic American Southern Gothic, contemporary fiction, crime mystery or a combination the confluence of history, atmosphere and long-held beliefs makes for rich, dark, fertile storytelling. Jamie Kornegay digs into this tapestry with a debut about the environment, end-of-the-world paranoia and a family in break down.

Jay Mize is convinced the world is coming to a catastrophic end and that he must do something drastic to ensure his family’s future. He quits his job as an environmental scientist and moves his family out into the Mississippi flood basin to start a revolutionary farm. The story begins six months later with everything in ruins. Jay is practically bankrupt, his wife and son have left him and his farm and all his plans and ideas are literally underwater. As the flood waters recede Jay finds a body on his property. With his mild paranoia now full-blown delusional Jay decides he has to get rid of the body rather than report it and that’s when his troubles really start.

Peppered with a great cast of odd and unusual characters, including a bizarrely injured woodsman and a sex-addicted Sheriff’s Deputy, Korengay delivers a novel above and beyond the Coen Brothers comparisons. With just the right amount of wicked humour Korengay tells the story of a man driven to the brink, a brink only he can see coming, which he is determined to slip down.

Moving and affecting this book will suck you in from the opening pages. It will have you wincing and pleading, hoping and laughing and is a highly accomplished debut from a distinctive new voice in American fiction.

Buy the book here…